CLOVIS -- In the year 2000
California open space, farmland and wildlife habitat in the Central
Valley and Sierra Nevada were under attack. Richard Schlosberg,
President of the Packard Foundation told reporters, "These
are treasures of immense value are greatly threatened. If we wait
any longer to assure their conservation, they will be lost forever."
The Packard Foundation, is attempted to
bring their financial resources, to the conserviation of these natural
The Foundation announced in 1998, the most
ambitious initiative ever undertaken in American conservation and
Californias open space preservation.
"As successful as it is, our program
is only a down payment," said Jeanne Sedgwick, a Packard spokesperson.
"If were to preserve the quality of life in California,
well need a much larger effort, which will require many others
to step forward with funding and support."
"Packard has changed the landscape
of conservation in California," said Bruce Babbitt, Clinton
administration Secretary of the Interior. "In creating this
long-term funding source, they have drawn many key players into
planning efforts. Without that security, many of them simply would
not be involved. Down the road, it will be much easier for government
agencies to put money into landscape-level projects and restoration
practices that have been proven thanks to these kinds of philanthropic
Without major efforts to conserve Californias
remaining open lands, state population growth in the coming decade
is expected to have devastating impacts. The California Department
of Finance projects a population increase of more than 40 million
in coming decades.
In light of this growth, the Sierra Club
and others suggest that purchasing these lands outright would cost
$12.3 billion in 1999 real estate values. No doubt, losing these
lands to development could harm tourism, drive animals to extinction,
require costly treatment plants to filter drinking water and "diminish
the willingness of business to locate high-paying jobs in California. "If
we dont act now to protect Californias open lands, well
destroy one of the worlds most beautiful, livable and biologically
rich regions," Sedgwick added. "Well squander a
Sedgwick told reporters, "The best
solution combines public and private funding. Ultimately, the State
of California needs to create a source of permanent funding, much
like those approved by voters in Florida and New Jersey." The
Packard report commended Governor Davis recent commitment
of $75 million for open-space funding as an important first step
and the passage by California voters of Propositions 12 and 13 which
dedicate significant funds to parks and open space.
The Packard Foundations Conserving
California Landscapes Initiative is designed to leverage its
contribution by drawing matching funds and key players into the
process. In 1998, the Foundation said it hoped to attract $175 million
in additional funding, from individuals, corporations, other foundations,
government agencies and othersm, a goal that was also exceeded by
the midway point.
In transactions related to the program,
Packard contributed $96,181,673 in grants and low-interest loans.
Other sources contributed $244,671,519, a figure that includes more
than $50 million from individual donors.
Through the Conserving California Landscapes
Initiative, the Packard Foundation does not buy land.
Rather, it supports groups that may do so for conservation purposes.
The initiative emphasizes an array of transaction
tools, including the purchase of land, easements for agricultural
use and water rights. This allows many of the lands to stay in private
hands and in uses such as ranching or farming, while permanently
restricting any significant development.
The Foundation also offers low-interest
bridge loans to help groups close real estate deals at the most
The programs reach includes policy
and planning grants help groups develop sensible land-use practices
and policies. Public education grants have been used to focus attention
on the need for open space protection.
Capacity building grants help organizations
improve their skills with the strategies and tactics of land conservation.
Some of the restoration and stewardship grants have been used to
help protect salmon and steelhead in the Sierra Nevada. These non-transaction
grants total more than $31 million.
"Because they can move so quickly and
decisively, private philanthropists can help groups strike the best
price for real estate," said Mary Nichols, Californias
Secretary for Resources. "When the government later comes aboard
as a partner to help with funding, the public knows their tax dollars
are part of the best possible deal on the real estate market. That's
a major benefit for the environment and the taxpayers."
[Editor's Note: The David
and Lucile Packard Foundation was created in 1964 by David Packard
(1912-1996) and Lucile Salter Packard (1914-1987). The Foundation
provides grants to nonprofit organizations focusing on conservation;
population; science; children, families, and communities; arts;
and organizational effectiveness and philanthropy. Data statistics
quoted in this column were provided the writer in the Conserving
California Landscapes Initiative Midterm Report and The Trust
for Public Land.]